Thanks to Bruce Bain of Tyler for the referral to this article.  Lesson to be learned here for lawyers and litigants on Facebook… don’t mention anything specific about any of your cases online.  Facebook is no different than a party, just a cyberspace social situation.  You wouldn’t discuss the specifics of a case with a judge at a party.  Why would you post it on Facebook???

Judge Reprimanded for Friending Lawyer and Googling Litigant

A North Carolina judge has been reprimanded for “friending” a lawyer in a pending case, posting and reading messages about the litigation, and accessing the website of the opposing party.

Judge B. Carlton Terry Jr. and lawyer Charles Shieck both posted messages about the child custody and support case heard last September, the Lexington Dispatch reports. Terry also accessed the website of the opposing litigant and cited a poem she had posted there, according to the April 1 public reprimand (PDF) by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission.

The opinion says Terry and Shieck first discussed Facebook in chambers in the presence of the opposing lawyer in the case, Jessie Conley, who said she didn’t know what Facebook was and didn’t have time for it. After the discussion, Terry and Shieck friended each other. Shieck later posted a Facebook reference to the issue of whether his client had had an affair, saying “How do I prove a negative?” according to the opinion. Shieck also wrote, “I have a wise judge.”

Terry told Conley about Shieck’s posts the day after he read them. The same day during court proceedings he referenced the poem he found and posted a Facebook message that the case was in its last day of trial. After the hearing concluded, Terry disclosed to both parties that he had visited the website of Conley’s client, where he found the poem, and then disqualified himself at the request of Conley.

Terry told investigators the poem had suggested that Conley’s client was not as bitter as he first thought and had given him hope for the litigants’ children. He also cooperated in the investigation, the opinion says.

The opinion says the ex parte communications and the independent gathering of information indicated a disregard of the principles of judicial conduct.
 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.